Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Across the country, students are headed back to classrooms. Many teachers and students are watching the Democratic Convention and are aware that race has been a significant conversation in this year's campaign. If you're developing lesson plans around the subject of race, the video When Your Hands Are Tied will prove useful. Click here to go to the companion website and view a trailer. You can get a free copy of the DVD from Oyate. Given Oyate's non-profit status, consider ordering another video from them, or a book, or a CD.

[This review may not be published elsewhere without written permission from its author, Beverly Slapin. Copyright 2008 by Beverly Slapin. All rights reserved.]

When Your Hands Are Tied. 2006, 56 minutes, color, grades 7-up

“When you’re given all these obstacles and barriers,” says Hataalii (healer) Eric Willie (Diné), “when they tie your hands behind your back and your legs together, and they leave you just crawling, what do you do? You develop new ways to communicate, you develop new ways to express self-identity, and that’s what I see with today’s children.”

As Indian communities all over Turtle Island struggle to heal from the generational trauma of the Indian boarding schools, Indian young people struggle to resist the negative pressures of the dominant society. That’s why When Your Hands Are Tied is so important. It’s an exceptional film that explores the realities of Indian young people navigating between the traditional and the contemporary, maintaining strong ties with their communities while expressing themselves in unique ways. The Pueblo, Diné and Apache teens seen here are photographers and filmmakers, breakdancers and rappers, rockers and skateboarders, and all are very talented. The teens—mentored by a young Diné healer, the governor of Nambé Pueblo, a director of American Indian Studies, and artists who are their role models: singer/songwriter Radmilla Cody, rappers Mistic and Shade, the high-energy rock band Blackfire, skateboard artist Douglas Miles and others—learn that it is possible to honor the past while looking to the future. With young people showing and telling what they’re doing, breathtaking views of the land, and amazing music—including Blackfire’s rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “Mean Things Happenin’ in This World”—When Your Hands Are Tied will resonate with Indian teens everywhere.

When Your Hands Are Tied was co-produced by Mia Boccella Hartle and Marley Shebala (Diné/Zuni) as an educational tool to reach families, communities, schools, libraries, and treatment centers, so that everyone can see a positive reflection of what’s happening with Native young people today. Funded by a not-for-profit charitable organization with limited funds, this excellent film was given to us to distribute at no cost to anyone who can benefit from it. Feel free to order it if you can use it well.

DVD, no charge

(As you know, Oyate is an often cash-strapped, grassroots 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. Thank you.)

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1 comment:

Matthew said...

I showed this in class last year and the students absolutely loved it! There are not many projects that highlight youth culture and their experiences. This is a great example of how Natives constantly navigate in multiple worlds.